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Keep the elderly cool.

Keep the Elderly Cool

Most of us, at any age, are not particularly knowledgeable about dealing with extreme summer heat. The siesta is just one of the ways people living in the hottest climates have escaped the effects of afternoon heat.

Hospital records reveal that the majority of heat stroke patients are the elderly and poor who live in inner cities. Two-thirds of the cases are associated with hypertension, diabetes, and alcoholism. More than half of the victims were taking medications that affected their ability to handle the heat.

Because many of the elderly are socially isolated, they are unable, physically and psychologically, to cope with the heat. Some were found in rooms with fans, but the fans were not turned on; the windows were closed, and the room temperatures were sometimes as high as 110 [degrees] F. They may have assumed that closing up windows would keep the heat out.

Isolation and lack of awareness are not the only reasons the elderly suffer from heat. Older patients cannot handle heat as well as the young because their sweat glands and circulation to the skin are not as effective as they once were, interfering with the ability of the body to eliminate heat by perspiring.

Medications are also implicated in heat stroke. Some increase heat production within the body and some impair dissipation of heat. Those that interfere with sweat gland function include diuretics, antihistamines, antidepressants, antihypertensives, and antipsychotics. Some of these boost heat production.

Because many elderly people take several medications, vulnerability is increased. The patient must become aware that under the influence of medications susceptibility to heat is increased.

With or without medications, the elderly should realize that high summer temperatures pose severe problems and should take common sense measures to keep cool.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:aged vulnerable to heat stroke
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Date:Jun 22, 1989
Previous Article:Smoking and sexuality.
Next Article:Falling: a disaster for the elderly.

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